The pandemic shed light on what is called the “skills gap”, i.e. the gap between the demand and supply of skills in the labor market, which appears to be driven by three primary long-term factors:

  • the emergence of artificial intelligence-based technologies;
  • the growing need for technological acumen to compete in a rapidly changing commercial landscape;
  • the collapse of employers’ investments in training in the last twenty years.

This means that professions that require low skills will most likely be gradually replaced by robots or artificial technologies. In the 1960s, manual work involving repetitive actions represented 34% of the professions; today they are at 26%. The two data are reversed for jobs that require high cognitive skills and problem – solving.

Bearing in mind that the economic crisis that will follow Covid-19 – 19 is also expected to be a massive digital revolution, this trend can only grow. In the short term, the “hybrid” world scenario, with some employees in the workplace and some at home, will rely on digital skills as never before. Second, the advent of the fourth industrial revolution will not stop, quite the opposite. In the next five years, it is estimated that the global workforce will absorb some 149 million new technology-oriented jobs. As can be seen from the graph below, software developers will be the most popular (98 million), as well as data analysts (20 million), figures related to cybersecurity (6 million) and privacy protection (1 million).

Graph 7, Microsoft, Microsoft launches initiative to help 25 million people worldwide acquire the digital skills needed in a COVID-19 economy, 30th June 2020

To facilitate the process, Microsoft plans to have 25 million workers around the world acquire digital skills by the end of the year, implementing the so-called “digital reskilling”, in partnership with LinkedIn. This digital training mission is urgent if we consider that in low-income economies only 32% of the population has basic digital skills (such as sending e-mails); among the highest-income economies, this number is only 62% and rapidly drops to 44% for standard skills (creating electronic presentations). Digital literacy is still an obstacle to the adoption of the required digital services that enable a remote lifestyle.

Microsoft’s initiative includes three areas of activity:

  • data analysis to identify the most requested jobs and the skills needed to carry them out;
  • free access to the learning paths needed to help people develop the required skills;
  • low-cost certifications and free tools to allow those who have acquired the aforementioned skills to find a job.

The first point comes in close cooperation with LinkedIn. The platform allows identifying (thanks to the Economic Graph) the required skills, the emerging jobs and the global hiring rates (x). As an example, one of the latest insights shows the disproportionate spread of artificial intelligence skills in Europe. The UK (24%), France (14%) and Germany (12%) hold the most talent, two-thirds of which are employed in the ICT sector. Big companies enjoy these talents the most: automotive in Germany and financial services in the UK (x). Using the graph developed by LinkedIn, Microsoft has identified the ten most requested professional figures in today’s economy: software developers, sales representatives, project managers, IT administrators, customer service specialists, digital marketing specialists, IT support/help desk, data and financial analysts and graphic designers. The main skills of these professions can be learned online.

The second area of ​​activity also sees the participation of LinkedIn, through the platform’s learning program, which provides video content designed to help job seekers in those ten positions to develop the necessary basic skills. Each learning path is currently available in English, French, Spanish and German. This point is also based on the upskilling of senior careers, who need to completely readjust their professional modus operandi.

Thirdly, Microsoft will help workers take exams that prove the acquisition of technology skills at lower than market prices. This point is important since more than half of the IT decision-makers surveyed believe the main advantage of certified people is their ability to keep up with an ever-changing technological environment.